Illustration: Samantha Hahn
For this special Fashion Week edition of “How I Get There,” we ask successful women how to manage their careers and lives during this hectic time of year.
Christina Fragkou has been documenting fashion week for over eight years. As a freelance street style and fashion photographer, this is easily her busiest season as she travels from city to city capturing content for top fashion brands and magazines around the world (including Cup!).
A seasoned photographer, she has worked for brands such as Dior, Rick Owens, JW Anderson, Balenciaga, Acne Studios, Chanel, Schiaparelli, Loewe, Gabriela Hearst and Prada. When not working on runways, she captures street style for publications such as The Cut, vogue, DAZED, Hypebeast, and more. She captured iconic moments like Karl Lagerfeld’s final show for Chanel, the late Queen of England arriving for London Fashion Week in February 2018, and Virgil Abloh, Bella Hadid and Hailey Bieber backstage at Off-white in 2017.
Born in Greece and raised in South Africa, Fragkou (who uses the pronouns she/they) graduated from university in 2012. While she was initially unsure what type of photography she wanted to focus on, she decided to apply to Condé Nast College. fashion and design in London. It is only by doing an internship at RESERVOIR Magazine, where she shot a mix of documentary and fashion together, it clicked: that’s what she loved to shoot. She shot her first London Fashion Week in 2015, and this season marked her first New York Fashion Week since the pandemic. That’s how she does it.
On an average day during fashion week:
I go to bed around 2:30 a.m. and wake up around 7:30 a.m. As I get tired, I find that I have to wake up a bit earlier, because it takes me a lot longer in the morning. I can’t just get up and walk out. I take a morning shower and always have a decaffeinated coffee on the way: oat milk flat white, even if I’m late. During the day, I carry a load of shit on me. I have my camera, my phone and my laptop. I have two lenses because I shoot backstage and street style. I’ll be on the street until sunset spinning in the street. On average, I will probably shoot two or three shows a day backstage and then I will also shoot in street style between four and five different shows. I try to say no to all late night shows, unless it’s for a client I’ve worked with for a long time and it’s a show I’m going to enjoy, or it’s for a lot of silver. While I usually walk from show to show or take public transportation, when it’s late at night I take an Uber home. I don’t take the subway or subway no matter what, not for safety reasons, just because I’m tired. And then I want to sit on my phone for 20 minutes and feel like a human before heading upstairs for the night.
On how she finds work:
When I started, I sent so many emails. I still send quite a few emails, but it’s the classic story you hear about a snowball effect. I got a little job from a girl who saw me posting who I went to college with, who worked at a little magazine. I tried to get into Refinery29 but they didn’t get back to me, then the next season they contacted me. It also has a lot to do with photo editors. It’s their job to find photographers and I’ve been lucky enough to have done that for long enough and to work with such a variety of publications, that when people are looking for photographers, especially during Fashion Week, I’m on their radar.
On what drives her:
I dance my heart. If my headphones aren’t plugged in and the music isn’t pumping, I sleep, cry, or yell at people. I always start with a bit of Florence + the Machine. There is always “Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield. Then there’s a lot of 90s R&B and a lot of 70s dad gems and 80s pop. Oh, and a little bit of Justin Bieber. I need to keep the vibe going and it really carries me because my body is moving. I find that if I keep moving, I can stay upright.
On the community of photographers she works with:
We have a small family that travels together. It’s crazy to see your friend on the street and say “Hey, see you tomorrow” and you know it’s going to be in another country. I calculated this: I spend more days with them a year than with my family. We know everyone’s personality. You can see when someone has a day off. We have different places where we stand and turn and there is a connection there, which is nice. We just move. We often share apartments, or at least stay in the same quarters.
On how much she spends:
My expenses skyrocket during Fashion Week, but I do it on purpose. I navigate this space in a way that I know is most beneficial to me. During Fashion Week, I give myself a decent amount of cash to know that I can grab what I want when I want it and not be stressed out about spending. In recent years, it has become a priority to ensure that I sleep in a comfortable place for me. This comes as you work longer and start to get more consistent work and get better at what you do and understand rates better. I can manage it, but it’s expensive as hell. I was shocked to see the prices in New York this time. I normally keep a budget of my spending per fashion week and just refer to it to calculate how much I should be spending, and it was double the money this year. I almost had to email and say “I don’t think I can make it” and then I found a friend from South Africa who is going there, and I’m renting him a second room.
At the restaurant :
The first day at a new place, I go to the store and get chocolate and lots of crisps. I fool myself into buying healthy snacks that I’ll probably also snack on but won’t finish. But I mostly eat in restaurants. I often take my laptop to dinner with me, which I really appreciate. We also go to group dinners most nights and have regular places where we eat out.
I mostly pick outfits out of a suitcase, so I pack for a few months and walk around with those same two bags. It’s not minimal at all, but there is a checklist. I need fancy pants, very loose athletic pants, white pants because I love to wear white, and cargo pants. I always pack shorts. For shoes, it is a pair of sandals, boots, running shoes and walking shoes. There are a lot of little tops and cardigans. I wear LA-based brand Online Ceramics religiously, and they make a ton of printed tops. By day, it’s based on how comfortable I am working in these clothes. I alternate between, Do I want to be beautiful and elegant today? Do I want to look pissed off and cool today? Or do I want to look like a boy today?
Seeing the less glamorous side of things:
It’s so easy to see the experience in a way. While it’s so exciting to have access to a brand like YSL, it can also be like “the show was supposed to start at nine and it’s only now starting at ten and I’ve been sitting on this podium for two hours and It’s zero degrees and I can’t breathe. I don’t know if I’m that excited anymore. But it’s a balance and everything is a paradox. And it’s better when you lean into that yin and that yang and that you are able to hold back the excitement and know that excitement doesn’t take away the frustration that can come with work.You have to remember that excitement doesn’t make up for exhaustion.